The Courage to Become | Shani Montique-Ahmad
In the Beginning
I met my husband watching a live band in the garage of some condo in East Austin, years ago. I was completely over being in a relationship and almost didn’t attend the event that changed my life. I hate to say that the cliché is true, but when you’re not looking for your life partner your match will find you. That night it was all about me having a good time with friends and then he showed up. After a double date eating some really hot Thai food at Madam Ma’am’s with runny noses, we found it difficult to not be together. Soon thereafter, he discovered that band-life wasn’t for him and I realized that working retail and weekends was not my calling. We eventually wised-up, got a game plan that would bond us forever, and executed.
When we decided to spend the rest of our lives together, I wouldn’t have dared to compare our union to a race to the finish line. We met when I was 27 years old, nearly 28, and my husband was 31. We got married three years later. Before we said, “I do”, we tackled through all the hard topics like lifestyle, religion, politics, business, and child rearing, which I’m sure extended our courtship. For us, raising a child is one of the most important duties a person will ever have in their lifetime so settling any differences was crucial. As equipped as we thought we were in our efforts to avoid marital complications, we were ill-prepared for the emotional roller coaster of infertility.
Twenty Minutes After
Excitement was the feeling we both felt when, in the Fall of 2013, I became pregnant.
We broke all the rules of keeping our mouths shut and soon told all our close friends and family. I knew that I had fibroids, but a few of my aunts and cousins on both sides of the family did too and, with some complications, were able to bear children. Naturally, I was very prepared for a few bumps in the road until I gave birth. My OBGYN monitored me very closely. The fibroids had grown quickly and feasted on the boost of estrogen in my body. I began to notice a large bulge gradually protruding near my right hip. Towards the end of my first trimester, I was ordered to go on bed rest for a few days. On a Sunday, I was released to start work the coming Monday and I was relieved that possibly the worst was behind me. Twenty minutes after my husband left for work I became VERY scared. My body started experiencing the excruciatingly painful process of miscarriage.
I instinctively wanted to be prepared for the worst. I researched all the symptoms of suffering miscarriage while on bed rest, not expecting that I would soon live the tragedy. The pain was sharp like a knife to the lower abdomen, which forced me to immediately fold forward. I started symptomatically sweating and could hardly speak when I called 911 to rescue me. I managed to get an ambulance and very slowly inched to the front door doubled over in agonizing pain to avoid the paramedics breaking my window or door; left the door wide open and went to lay down.
The long morning ride to the hospital regarding fertility issues was not going to be my last. As much as I dislike taking medication, I begged the paramedic in a forced whisper for “more drugs” to take the pain away. Terminology like Dilation and Curettage (D&C) and Laparoscopic Myomectomy soon became very familiar. In the last four years, I have had three of each surgery. My fourth and most recent pregnancy in January of 2018 following the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure was a short-lived celebration that lasted only six days. I was diagnosed with a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy and given methotrexate twice to terminate the stubborn pregnancy. I had side effects of acute uterine pain and blood loss. After all the nausea, the medication, the needles, the weight gain, the constant blood withdrawals for lab testing, the hormones, and the surgeries… I was exhausted.
Surviving Through Purpose
It’s uplifting when you can find happiness even when you’re going through the most trying times.
My husband and I own and operate the Franklin Music Academy, a private business, in Austin teaching mostly children music lessons at our home studio and this has been the anchor in our relationship. After the newness of marriage is over and all you’re left with is each other, I guess it’s easy for people to get wrapped up in child rearing, a career, or some hobby, but for us it’s our business that forces us to communicate and work out our problems. The irony to dedicate our lives in educating other people’s children and not have our own is mind-blowing. In hindsight, I have realized that finding purpose through the business has been my strength and lifeline. Almost 5 years of infertility and upset has only been bearable knowing that I am contributing to my husband’s happiness teaching music and creating an environment that nurtures child development.
During our journey to expand our family, it was difficult to see parents with their kids at our house, but surprisingly our clients helped us cope. They were a nice distraction that kept us very busy. As I grew more comfortable sharing my infertility story outside of friends and family, I discovered that we were not alone. Due to the complications that IVF brought, we decided that this would no longer be a viable option as we needed to ensure our frozen embryos would still be able to bring us a family. Amazingly, one of our clients came forward and offered to be our compassionate gestational surrogate.
The feeling was undeniably magical when our client announced to be our carrier. We felt like we had hit the lottery especially considering the fact that our thoughtful client did not want to be compensated outside of paying for her medical bills. We made all the proper arrangements with our fertility clinic and waived her fees for music lessons for her kids. Unfortunately, after 2 months of preparation, we were told that our client was not a good fit for surrogacy.
Determined to Keep Going
It was hard to let go of the lady that thought so highly of us. It takes a special person to take on the great responsibility of surrogacy. Surrogacy is a self-less act that requires a strong mind and a heart as big as Texas. To assist in bringing a child into someone else’s family is a sacrifice of time and energy and we will be forever grateful to the next person that selects us as the intended parents. We still believe the best method to minimize the risk of miscarriage is to have a gestational surrogate and, this time, we are going through a surrogacy agency to find a carrier.
Choosing this route shouldn’t indicate that I have given up on wanting to have kids naturally one day. Nowadays, I have been diligently working on healing myself from the inside out through food, which is the best medicine. Agreeing to do IVF is a very involved self-sacrificial process that tests your sanity, your relationship, and your financial nest egg. The hormones make you testy and moody, seclusive, and have side-effects that can make you more prone to illnesses, including cancer. I am not suggesting that IVF shouldn’t be considered as an alternative to having children, but people should be aware that this procedure is very taxing. Now that I am off all the medications, I can focus on diet and exercise and doing the things that make me happy.
It may sound odd to continue our journey considering our history, but why should we give up? After you have afforded all the things you want and lived your life doing and seeing everything you desire, what then? When you’re old and gray and lying flat on your back, all of those things won’t matter. You’ll be too weak to enjoy them anyway. A child is a gift that keeps giving when their bright smiling face comes to visit you until your last breath.
My husband and I planned our life to marry, enjoy each other, and a few years later start a family. We started a business, bought a house, paid off our debts, and grew our emergency funds to support our baby. All the required ingredients of stability, love, and a two-parent household fostering fun and education has been properly laid out. Our dream of expanding our family will not expire until we have our baby by hook or by crook and we are eager to one day enjoy a family with children to love and nurture.
I'm Catia, a woman, wife, mama, sister, sister friend, you know -- I wear a million hats just like you.
One of my biggest whys is that I want people to feel good about ALL of who they are. Including you.
If I could choose ten words that best describe me I would say: honest, welcoming, giving, curious, loving, earnest, empathetic, spiritual, playful, and sassy. Let's add: adventurous. That's 11.
Nice to meet you!